Game Pile: The Games Of 2014

It’s the end of the year! Years will do that, end and such. It’s just how Years work these days. And in this year, there were video games that came out and you could engage in capitalism to acquire many of them! So now that it’s very unlikely any more videogames will come out this year, I wanted to talk for a little bit about the videogames of this year.

Note, this is about the games. This isn’t about the culture. If you’re curious about my thoughts on Videogame Culture this year, I’d like to refer you back to this post, where I refer to the people of gamergate as ‘entitled little shitbabies.’ My opinion has not changed.

Now we’re going to do something those odious little pissants don’t seem to want to do, because if they had they’d have realised this was a year for great joy, not four-month long screaming hissy-fits: Talk About Videogames.

The Hype Machine

First things first, this year was an amazing year for AAA and AA videogames. AA in this context refers to those games that want to hang on the big leagues of multi-platform marketing excursions, those games that come out commanding fifty-dollar price tags and maybe have an established brand on them, but just aren’t quite in the same grotesque price league as the clear AAA franchise heads. You know, portable games, or games from persistent but lower-key franchises, like Monster Hunter or Shin Megami Tensei. Some of these games, I’m going to want to pick up, or interest me from the outside, so I’m going to see what happens when I can play them.

2014 is going to stand out in my mind as a weird year. It was weird because it bucked trends, trends that I was pretty comfortable with. In 2014, three different games launched that were movie tie-in games, and they were, stunningly, quite good: Alien Isolation, Shadows of Mordor, and Disney Infinity 2.0.

One AAA Franchise bucked its trend of high quality and consistent output, and another AAA Franchise bucked its trend of being boring mediocrity – Assassins Creed: Unity and Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare sprang into the ring and stunned us all. CoDAW is doing great guns, as it always does, but it seems this time, the game has a sense of fun to it. It has a sense of self-awareness, and it’s highly mobile. Sure, it’s still a ploddy corridor game, but it’s a game that’s at least recognised its own silliness and is embracing it. Unity on the other hand appears to be a slow-motion trainwreck, a game that has been collapsing like the largest souffle since we first saw it back in its announcement phase.

This was also a year of followups and sequels and reboots – which makes sense, as franchises struggle to conserve value. Wolfenstein: The New Order, Dark Souls II and Costume Quest 2 all came out this year – and when those games are a bit older, when they dip down in the price stakes? Chances are I’ll scoop them up.

This was also a year for consoles realising the PC had caught up and overtaken them in hardware requirements, and suddenly a previous generations’ game devs realised they could just straight-up port to PCs and sell on Steam without distributing/marketing them the hard way. Valkyria Chronicles, for example, and Final Fantasy games hit the Steam Store. In fact, in 2014, about nine Final Fantasy games were launched for digital distrbution. That’s bananas!

Watch_Dogs and Thief are two other 2014 AAA titles that I want to play because I want to see what they didn’t do right. Both games are quite flawed in public consciousness, and as a gamer of historical perspective (ie: old bastard) I want to know what they tried to do. That, and honestly, Watch_Dogs is going to be like meeting an old crush and realising how up close it can all be tragic. But we’ll see. In both cases though, these two bombs in the greater consciousness are still games that are worth talking about – rather than in recent years, where failures have just been dismissed.

The Games Reviewed

Sometimes a game will stick around in my playlist after I’ve finished writing about it, but for the most part, I think of an article as a capstone to a game experience. I’m done, I’m writing about it, and now we’re moving on. Games that lasted after their week in my life, then, were really noteworthy – and some of them did! Particularly, I played Defender’s Quest, Steamworld Dig, and Mass Effect III way, way, way more than I figured I would. In the case of ME3, it really was just multiplayer. The single player campaign had an unsatisfying, almost unremarkably bad ending, by the end of it all; the multiplayer, however, was fun and it was fun in this way where there was basically no excess. I don’t find ME3 multiplayer ‘fun, but-‘. I just enjoy playing it.

A lot of the indie games I played this year deserve a little extra sunlight. They Bleed Pixels is a creepy but fluid action platformer where the player has remarkable control over their own success, a real skill-based game in a genre where randomness is usually a developer’s first resort to manage balance. I really enjoyed Freedom Planet too, if the glowing review wasn’t obvious. But also important was Long Live The Queen – a game whose review is totally unique on this site, and which was my first, cold realisation of how bad my traffic was. When I ran that review I feared that it might become a semi-viral thing of maybe dozens of people passing it around and making fun of me. Instead, it seems maybe four people listened to it at all.

I’m not a ‘game of the year’ kind of person, but I would also like to give a special mention to Antichamber. I sort of dismissed it in my review as being basically a Portal expansion pack, and I loved Portal. I loved how Portal was short and clever and punchy. But Fiora brought it to my attention that the core element of Antichamber wasn’t achievement or solution – but rather exploration. In Antichamber if a puzzle wasn’t working for you, chances are you could go for a wander and find something else, find some new connection. That was remarkable, and it was a good insight into that game.

While I’m talking about my friends, there are a few games that came out this year that I’m really interested in but haven’t been able to play yet. Thanks to my friends, I’m interested in checking out The Samaritan Paradox, Hexcells, Dragon Age: Origins and Inquisition, Shadowrun Dragonfall, Child of Light, Full Bore, and Shovel Knight. There’s almost certainly others, and if you tweet them at me I’ll note them down to consider for later play.

Changes To The Game Pile

Finally, an announcement of sorts regarding Game Pile. While I still want to keep producing these game results, this year’s Steam Update has me thinking about curation more. Right now I play games as I get to them, and with this year’s schedule of updating once a week, I have not been able to really play games that take a lot of time. During exams, I had to rush game reviews, and some games I blasted through far too quickly in the name of getting a review out.

I don’t want to do that. Nobody’s paying me for these reviews (though by all means),  and while it was nice to show I could do it, churning through an Ubisoft style content platter in a few sittings is not something I can even do in a week while I’m managing things like school and extra work sources. It’s not only not viable, it’s downright foolish.

What you share, what you talk about, shows a bit of what you value. This year I valued talking about things that I could reasonably talk about in a week. I’m not happy with that as a value. I’d rather talk about things that interest me, that I enjoyed, and that are fun.

I also like talking about things that make me angry. This is something I’ve been avoiding quite a bit lately because I feel that there are people who get distressed when they see me upset about things. I’m not really sure how to thread that particular needle yet. I understand there’s a positive aim to trying to be kind and nice about everything in the world, and I think this year I managed closer to it than anything, but anger is real. While I can be positive about a lot of things and I have a very sunny view of videogames, I don’t want to feel like I’m muzzling myself over my opinion of media, as if Deus Ex has feelings that I can hurt. Some games are going to make me angry. I probably won’t write about it unless I find that interesting, but I feel that this year at least, the little angry writing I allowed myself had a good result.

The goal next year is to make more interesting game pile posts; to maybe make shorter, perfunctionary comments on games that are part of the pile; and to hopefully do more Deeper In The Pile style analysese.

Oh, and I do really like the new visual formatting games have this year. I’m a big fan of that. Big thanks to our Munchlaxian administrator for the code to make that work.

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